19 June 2021
The American Community Survey, compiled between 2008 and 2012 and being the most recent analysis, identified 0.6% of the total population of Bedford County as descending from African ancestors.
For many decades, school children learned that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on 22 September 1862. The Emancipation Proclamation declared slavery ended. But for the enslaved Africans and descendants of Africans held in bondage throughout the Confederacy, true emancipation did not come immediately.
As the Union Army moved through the states who were in rebellion against the United States of America, the black slaves were liberated. The Union Army finally arrived in Texas in the summer of 1865. The liberators arrived at Galveston, on the Caribbean coast on 19 June 1865 to declare slavery in the Lone Star State at an end.
General Granger read General Order Number 3 to the black people of Galveston: "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer." Upon hearing those words, many of the freed black people traveled throughout the southern states to search for and reunite with family who had been snatched away.
From private celebrations of June 19th as the date which led to the reunion of their families to revelries of the day in more public ways, the holiday became known as Juneteenth. For many years the holiday of Juneteenth was confined to Texas. Many black families celebrated the day by making pilgrimages back to Galveston.
As the 1900s began, school books spoke of the Civil War in terms of national rather than local events. While the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was noted, and therefore learned by young black minds, the news of that emancipation carried by General Granger into Texas in the summer of 1865 was left out of the history lessons. The celebrations of Juneteenth were kept alive in the family, if not in the public, consciousness.
The Depression of the 1930s also had a negative impact on Juneteenth celebrations. Many black men were forced, by the economic situation, to take jobs in which they had little hope of being able to take off work to celebrate the holiday.
Through the early 20th Century, the consequences of racism and forced segregation affected the celebration of Juneteenth. The trials and tribulations endured by the people tended to define how the holiday would be observed. So often, the white people into whose midst the freed black families moved denied them access to public spaces. As a result, Juneteenth festivities were frequently celebrated in rural settings, at first on church grounds and later on private properties as more and more former slaves found employment and were able to buy property of their own. Because of the rural settings in which the holiday was celebrated, the festivities came to be filled with physical pastimes and competitions. Surrounded by nature, barbequing became popular and the barbeque pit often was the center of attention in Juneteenth celebrations. The celebrants would bring to the feast special meats, such as lamb and beef which might not normally have been available for everyday meals.
During the 1950s and 60s, racial tension and strife of the Civil Rights movement throughout the United States helped to spread the fervor of the holiday throughout black communities. Many student demonstrators studied the lives of their enslaved ancestors, and in the process gaining a newfound interest in the traditions of their forefathers including Juneteenth.
Knowledge of the celebration of Juneteenth spread to white communities as the nation pulled itself out of the segregationist policies of the past. It also gained the status of an official state holiday in Texas when, on 1 January 1980, House Bill 1016 introduced into the Texas Legislature by Albert E. Edwards was passed. Representative Edwards established Juneteenth USA, an effort to have the holiday recognized throughout the United States of America. In recent years, the holiday has come to be recognized by forty-seven states and the District of Columbia.
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